There was no escaping the significance of Uvalde High School’s football game Friday night, the team’s first home game since the May shooting at nearby Robb Elementary School that claimed the lives of 19 students and two teachers.
A moment of silence for 21 seconds, one for each of those killed in the shooting, preceded the game. Variations of “Uvalde strong” T-shirts were prevalent among fans in 5,000-seat Honey Bowl Stadium. The team sported new uniforms and equipment, donated by the Houston Texans.
And senior linebacker Justyn Rendon, whose younger brother survived the shooting, was chosen by his teammates to wear No. 21 in remembrance of those lost.
“I automatically started crying,” Rendon’s mother, Venessa Rendon, told ABC News. “I was proud. It was a very humbling moment.”
Then, what happened on the field provided a lift in a state known for its football passion. Uvalde beat C.C. Winn, 34-28, with a flourish in the final seconds.
The score was 28-28 with 36 seconds left when Uvalde senior Jonathan Jimenez took off on a 51-yard run to the C.C. Winn 10-yard line. With 17 seconds left, senior wideout Devon Franklin’s one-handed catch in the corner of the end zone gave Uvalde the win.
This is absolute goosebumps stuff:
Uvalde High School won its first home game tonight 34-28.
It happened thanks to a miraculous 51-yard run with 36 seconds to go.
And then a go-ahead, one-handed TD catch with 12 seconds left.
Have to love sports.#txhsfb @wfaa pic.twitter.com/AXSs1zakUu
Friday night’s victory follows the season-opening win over Carrizo Springs in which Uvalde scored 21 points.
“It was just a sign that the 21 angels are looking down at this community, and saying that they’re here, that they’re still present, and that they will remain present,” Eluterio Rendon, Justyn’s father, told ABC News.
The Uvalde Coyotes are playing their 1st home football game of the season; over 3 months after 21 students and teachers died in a mass shooting at Uvalde’s Robb Elementary School. 21 seconds of silence were observed for the victims. @ExpressNews pic.twitter.com/Ij5h9YBMFR
Here are some photos from last night’s game. The Uvalde Coyotes defeated Eagle Pass Winn 34-28 in their first home game of the season at Honey Bowl Stadium. My colleague @mikefinger will have a story in tomorrow’s @ExpressNews featuring more photos from me & @BillyCalzada 🏈 https://t.co/dUFrxrzGS9 pic.twitter.com/RRuOCWDhbh
For the players, football was therapeutic. “Everybody didn’t have to feel the sadness and the sorrow [when they began to practice],” Justyn Rendon said. “They just were able to feel the comfort of the family that we have.”
Still, the situation before the first home game was anything but typical. Texans Coach Lovie Smith, along with linebackers Christian Kirksey and Kamu Grugier-Hill, surprised the team with a visit Thursday.
A night to remember for Uvalde’s football team- a surprise visit from the @HoustonTexans. Much more to come on ABC pic.twitter.com/rlMYEm14Lm
“We’ll always be in your corner,” Kirksey told them. “We’ll always have your back.”
The visit was “awesome” for Uvalde Coach Wade Miller. As for the Texans, they will wear “Uvalde strong” decals on their helmets when they open their season at home on Sept. 11 against the Indianapolis Colts.
“It makes us feel the love that we’re getting from around the world and especially the state of Texas,” Miller told ABC, “and to have those guys here and keeping up with us makes our kids feel really special.”
Jonathan Elizondo, a 17-year-old defensive end, told ABC he had cousins who attended Robb and he transferred to Uvalde after the tragedy to support his family.
“I just don’t want them to see this as, like, a tragic town, you know?” he said “I want there to be positivity again.”